The University of San Francisco Honors Fr. Simon Jubani*/
“Day of Solidarity and Prayer for Albanian Believers/
Saturday May 4, 1991. St Ignatius Church at the University of San Francisco, California. USA./
….Civil Program.- The ceremony was divided into two parts. The civil program followed the Solemn Mass of Thanksgiving for Religious Freedom in Albania. At exactly 12:00 Noon, the crowd began to fill the pews of the magnificent St. Ignatius Church, and program director GjonSinishta welcomed them
Fr. Donald Foree, S.J. invited the audience to pray for a moment in silence for all those who had suffered and died during the period of religious oppression in Albania.
FR. Foree served as a master of ceremonies for the civil program.
He introduced Maureen Pryor, director of Campus Ministry at USF. Ms Pryor greeted the audience.
Then Fr. Foree introduced Fr. Paul Bernadicott, S.J. Professor of Theology and Chairman of Judaic Studies, who was delegated to speak on behalf of Rabbi David Davis, associate Vice President and Director of Judaic Studies at USF, who spoke of Albania’s Jewish community
Then, Fr. Foree introduced the Rev. Leo G. Neal, OFM, Conv. Director of the Albanian Catholic Information Center and a long time activist for religious freedom in Albania.
Then. Fr. Foree greeted Professor Sami Repishti, associated with Adelphi University, N.Y. a former political prisoner of conscience in Albania. Dr Repishti spoke as follows:
“Fr. President, Reverend Clergy, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I stand here before you as a living witness of the darkness that wrapped my beloved people of Albania since 1939. I stand here as a witness of a generation, my generation, consumed by that darkness, outraged and humiliated. I stand here as a witness of the blindness of my isolated countrymen in he face of a destiny from which they could not have fled. I stand here also as a witness of the magnanimity that rose from the destructive infernal attempt to dehumanize the victims, of the nobility of those who stood tall confronting barehanded a tyrant using more brute force hat was needed to kill.
Yes! I saw death dancing around me, I heard the screams of the innocent victims, touched their crippled bodies getting colder and colder, smelled the stench of their open wounds, and had the first taste of a hell on earth. Suddenly, I discovered absolute evil!
As many young friends of my wartime generation, I had come to seereligion as offensive to the modern mind, an impediment to my emotional and intellectual growth. Scientific progress had captured my imagination. Until one night when arrested and thrown in a solitary cell after many long hours of physical torture, every cell in my aching body was screaming for revenge. And yet, something from inside me kept whispering: “Do not do to them what they did to you! It’s wrong!”
With my simple reasoning, I began to construe a new frame of mind, a new defense against the aggressor. Political arguments began to lose their weight in front of daily torture. I was left with my own newly founded moral strength coming from within. My body was weakening every day, but I was pulling myself out of a seemingly insuperable quagmire and discovering my conquest over absolute evil. The rest of the ten years in jail were built upon this solid foundation. I had not lost my humanity!
The episode came back to me one evening when I was told about the answer of a former prisoner, the Re. Simon Jubani. He said to the torturer :”You have my body, and you can do whatever you wantwith it; but, inside me my soul belongs to me, and it is this soul which will conquer you!” A statement which, of course, brought more torture. Until last year, when the bottom fell out…
Today, many questions dance around me without answers. Many did not lose their faith, even with the sword hanging over their heads. But have we learned the meaning of our suffering? Meaningless suffering is idiotic. What should the outraged and the humiliated do? That’s my question!
Today in Albania, we hear the church bells ringing again, and the muezzin singing the praise to the One and the Only Lord. Today, flocks of faithful pray, meditate, and hope. Today in Albania, the sea of hatred raised to the level of science is subsiding and giving way to a new mood, subdued but not dispirited, understanding but not forgetful, and while convinced that forgiveness is the hallmark of magnanimity people are more than ever resolved to prevent tragedy repeat itself.
From the houses of torture and the communist death camps of mymartyred Albania a new world is born, a new society is rising, a new generation of youth is shaping a better future for themselves and their parents now suffering from the guilt of silence. In these days of spiritual and intellectual ferment, religion must play a major role. The traditional faith has shown not to be obsolete, and scientific thought has not been able to dispel our existential despair. The soul, a religious concept, has prevailed over materialism which tried to destroy beauty and consolation. A qualitative step has been taken: from naïve faith through suffering Albanians are entering into spiritual adulthood. As William James put it: the deepest forms of religious faith arose out of a background of despair and anawareness of evil. Albania has seen both. Albania has conquered both. Albania isripe for a new and meaningful religious experience which I hope will be the dominant component shaping the new Albanian society.
The martyrdom of the clergy, and especially of the Roman Catholic clergy in Albania, cannot be in vain. Yet, their sacrifice will receive fullrecognition and eternal gratitude only if the principles they defended at the cost of their lives will infuse the thoughts and will guide the actions of their countrymen in the future.
To them is the honor, to them is he glory of God. Thank you!
(Reprinted from: Albanian Catholic Bulletin-Buletini Katolik Shqiptar,
Vol. XII, (1991) ff.11-13.
Following the sermon, in the traditional Albanian ecumenical spirit, the prayers of the faithful were delivered on behalf of Rev. Imam Vehbi Ismail of the U.S Albanian Muslim Community, by Dr. Sami Repishti: “For all the people ands nations throughout the world suffering from hardship, oppression and persecution, that the Lord will bring relief and healing to their situation. WE PRAY TO THE LORD!”
The Reverend Imam Vehbi Ismail, director of the U.S. Islamic Center in Michigan saluted the ceremony’s directors on behalf ofthe Albanian Muslim Community:
“ The Day of Prayer and Solidarity for Albanian believers is praised by every Albanian who holds in his heart the ideal of a free and democratic development of Albanian society. As an Albanian cleric, I have watched the course of our homeland’s tragedy for a half century with a sad heart. Today, I am extremely happy that inthe end, we have been able to commemorate the innocent victims of the communists—in particular those whose belief in the Almighty God couldnot be taken away”
(idem, p. 21)
* Me Rastin e 25 Vjetorit te Fitores se Lirise Fetare ne Shqiperi
The University of San Francisco Honors Fr. Simon Jubani*/